Worldwide, around 70% of all soft PVC is still produced using phthalate plasticizers. However, considerable drawbacks are attached to this widespread use of phthalates as plasticizers: they are easily released into the environment and human exposure to these compounds has been linked to ailments ranging from asthma to cancer.
Safety concerns have therefore prompted a host of research efforts directed at the development of healthier alternatives.
One such effort is the Placard project, that is being co-funded by the EU’s Eco-innovation initiative. Placard was launched in January 2014 and is expected to run through mid 2016. The project is focused on the production and application of an innovative bio-based plasticizer derived from cardanol, an industrial grade yellow oil obtained through the vacuum distillation of cashew nut shell liquid. The miscibility of the new Placard plasticizer with PVC is comparable or even better than that of DEHP, and it migrates less readily out of the plastic. It is completely compatible for use with standard soft PVC processing equipment.
The aim is to have produced one ton of Placard plasticizer by the end of the project, and to reach a production level of 1000 ton/year of Placard-based PVC two years after the project has ended.
The substitution of oil-derived plasticizers by biobased compounds is projected to yield a 1.1-ton reduction in CO2 emissions per ton of new plasticizer, thus substantially reducing the environmental impact. Moreover, the improved thermal stability of Placard-based PVC will improve the recyclability of PVC waste, while contributing to an increased market take-up of environmentally friendly PVC.
One year into the project, the consortium behind the Placard effort met on February 6, 2015, to present the latest developments and milestones achieved.
The project and deliverables are in line with the planned timeline. The main development reported was the successful implementation of pilot scale production of the cardanol-based plasticizer pilot scale at Serichim, an Italian R&D company participating in the consortium. Another consortium partner, Università di Salento, reported positive results from research comparing properties from different commercial plasticizers.
Source: Bioplastics MAGAZINE, 2015-02-11.